‘What’s a tbh?’ Terms we had to explain to our editors when reporting on Generation Z

The Screen Age

‘What’s a tbh?’

Terms we had to explain to our editors when reporting these stories.

Published on May 25, 2016

When we started our reporting on teens and technology, we were feeling pretty confident: We’re both (relatively) tech-savvy millennials, glued to our phones and plugged into pop culture. Then we actually talked to teenagers, and realized we are The Olds. Millennials might be the creators of our modern social media landscape, but we can still remember life before cellphones — the era of waiting for Mom to get off the landline so we could log on to AIM. The true digital natives are the members of Generation Z, who have never existed without constant connection.

We had to a lot to learn. They provided some answers:

What’s “lb”?

“Like back,” a.k.a asking to trade a like for a like. You’ll see it a lot on famous Instagram accounts, like that of Kylie Jenner. She gets hundreds of comments asking her to “lb.” She does not lb.

Which one is Kylie again?

The youngest one. She’s 18, which makes her a member of Gen Z.

Why is it uncool to have a lot of pictures on your Instagram now?

The members of Gen Z we met spend a significant amount of time curating their profiles to show only the best pictures; they tell the person visiting your page who you are. That’s what all of social media feels like to teenagers now: They want all of their pictures to say something about their lives. So they will delete the photos that seem redundant or don’t get many likes. This is v. important.


It’s the new “very.” Winston Churchill used it well over 100 years ago, according to the Atlantic.

Can we say “r.” for “really”?

No. But if you’re trying to say “really?” in an “are you serious?” way, you can say “Bruh.”

What’s a Snapchat score?

“A special equation combining the number of Snaps you’ve sent and received, Stories you’ve posted, and other factors,” according to Snapchat. You can check your score by opening the app, pressing the Snapchat icon at the top of the screen and sliding it down. (Jessica’s snap score is 13,297. Caitlin’s is 9.)

What’s with calling people “mom” when they’re not your mom?

It’s a term of endearment that conveys respect and admiration. It is often commented beneath photos or tweeted back at someone. If the admired person is a man, the term is usually “dad” or “daddy.”

And “queen”?

It’s a complimentary term meaning someone, usually a woman, is powerful and beloved. Sometimes spelled Kween, frequently preceded by the word “YAS.”

And … “YAS”?

A better or worse way to enthusiastically say “yes,” depending who you ask. “YAS” shows you are extremely satisfied or approving of something. Add as many A’s as you would like.

What is ‘bunny hunting?’

An extremely creepy term used by adult predators. It describes the practice of sending unsolicited digital messages or photos to kids online, with the aim to establish a line of communication.

What’s “tbh”?

“To be honest.” It might sound like the beginning of a dis, but it’s usually written before a compliment in the comments beneath a photo. “Tbh, you are nice and pretty.”

How do you “like for a tbh”?

If you write this in the caption of a photo, you are asking followers to like your photo, and in exchange, you will write a tbh (compliment) beneath one of their photos.

What does “MMO” stand for?

It’s an acronym for “massively multiplayer online” game, which allows players all over the world to connect online and play together in the same virtual “world.” There are many different kinds of MMOs, including role-playing games (or MMORPGs — such as World of Warcraft, Runescape or Minecraft) and first-person shooter games (or MMOFPSs, like Call of Duty or Counter-Strike). These games are often available on a variety of Internet-capable devices — computers, game consoles, tablets and smartphones.

Is that different from a “sandbox” game?

Yes. A “sandbox” game — or open-world game — just means that the gamer has the capacity to “roam” through an entire virtual world and influence it (as in Minecraft), rather than play through a progression of numbered levels. Not all MMOs are sandbox games.

What does “ult” mean?

This refers to a game character’s “ultimate” ability — the most impressive skill/trick/move the character can execute.

So a ‘sub’ is not a sandwich anymore?

“Sub” is short for “subscriber” on YouTube. As in: “Ryan ToysReview has 5 million subs.”

And the more subscribers, the more money a YouTube channel gets?

It’s not that simple. Every creator has the ability to allow YouTube to put advertisements on their videos. The more their audiences watch and click those advertisements, the more money the creators make.

So when I click on a YouTube video with an advertisement on it, how much does that creator earn for my click?

There’s no exact equation. It depends on the type and length of the advertisement, the level of influence the creator has and more variables. Even seasoned YouTube creators have found this hard to figure out.

Can we all quit our jobs and get rich on YouTube?

You’d probably have to work more hours than you do now. Even people who find gold mine niches in the YouTube world — like videos featuring ASMR, “surprise egg” openings and water-bottle flipping — must constantly upload new videos, negotiate with sponsors and do hours of tedious behind-the-scenes work to make a living on the platform.

So how old are Gen Z-ers, exactly?

The exact age range varies slightly depending on which researcher you ask, but the label generally applies to anyone up to age 18 or 20.

How much time are they spending in front of screens?

On average, teens spend nearly nine hours a day consuming media while tweens (ages 8 to 12) spend nearly six, according to a 2015 study by the nonprofit Common Sense Media.

How much is too much?

lol, Before you judge, check how much you live on your own phone. On an iPhone, check by tapping Settings > Battery. When “Battery Usage” loads, click the clock symbol on the right side of your screen. It will tell you how much time you’re spending on each app. You can find similar stats on Android by looking at your battery usage in Settings.

I thought it was LOL — capitalized.

Jessica’s 14-year-old cousin says it’s lol now.

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About the series

The kids of Generation Z have never known a world without smartphones and social media. The Washington Post examines what it means to grow up in an era where learning, flirting and hanging out all happens on screens.